Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 6 - Cayucos and San Luis Obispo

Waking up to the sound of a creek, the smell of pine, and what looked like a raccoon on the window sill was a pretty surreal experience for me. We'd resolved to get an early start, but there was no stopping the Hubs from getting his breakfast and coffee. Deetjens do their own blend and it was the best coffee we'd had since we arrived in the US. After breakfast we walked uphill to watch the sun rise over the pacific, which was absolutely gorgeous. We went back on Highway 1 toward San Simeon, and there isn't anything I can articulate about that - the photos say it all, other than that there are an inordinate number of mobile elliptical users in the Big Sur, and that the drive was beautiful and terrifying (the Hubs was loving the turbos a little too much), and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

We had been planning to visit Hearst Castle, but I hadn't booked us in and we couldn't get onto a tour. Instead, we went to Cayucos via NitWit Ridge, the Poor Man's Hearst Castle. It featured everything from bathtubs to toilets. Cayucos was a picturesque beach town, complete with sexy, sun-kissed surfers of both sexes, though with a distinct skew in my favour. We strolled down the pier then settled in at Cayucos Cellars for a tasting with Clay S, whose family runs the vineyard. We stayed for two hours just chatting and drinking, but also got a tip to try Ruddell's Smokehouse for smoked fish and pork tacos. For $5 I had an abercole taco and the Hubs had a pork loin taco for the same, slathered in hot sauce. It was by a long stretch the best thing we had (and would)taste(d)in the US. It easily surpassed all the food from the French Laundry and Dean & Deluca. It was incredible and worth a side trip for anyone.

Since we'd gained some time on the itinerary, I rang the hotel we were most excited about, the Madonna Inn at San Luis Obispo, to bring our booking forward. The Madonna Inn is (in)famous for having over a hundred individually decorated rooms, all of which are shrines to the deities of Tack. All the rooms are incredibly tacky but yet to such a scale that it is actually amazing and good. When Michael Jackson used "Bad" to mean good and Japanese surfers use "yabai" to mean sick, in the sense of the Americans they probably came close to describing the Madonna Inn. We were booked into the Chesnut Foal room, which featured an intriguing lightpiece. The Hubs managed to work his charm (by which I mean that he wore down the girl at check in by spending 40 minutes picking a room) and we got bumped to the Old World Suite, with a bottle of Californian champagne.

O - M - G (as the kids like to say). Did I say Suite? I think I meant Fred Flintstone channelling Hugh Hefner. The room was at basement level and is essentially cut into a mountain. You walk into a parlour area with a four seater table next to a curved sofa facing a giant hearth separated from by a stone wall with a heart-shaped cut out, revealing a bed with red velvet sheets (no joke). Across from the bed was the bathroom, with a waterfall effect shower, as was the tap. Turning on the tap to get running water took about five minutes as it made its way across the walls to trickle down to the sink.

That night was St Patrick's Day and we were booked in for dinner at the Gold Rush Steak House. In keeping with the excesses of Madonna Inn, the restaurant was gloriously ... pink. With a massive tree in the middle of the restaurant (fake, naturally). Everything was oversized and opulent. These were steaks. They were huge! Plus they threw in a free dessert. I had to throw up after from sheer over eating. The other thing we were able to do was to take advantage of one of my favourite things about America - low corkage. We'd bought a great bottle of wine from Cayucos cellars and it seemed a great day to drink it. The worst thing of the entire evening was the entirely disgusting Guinness, which even copious amounts of kahlua couldn't help.

Still, this night was a massive tick in the tourism box, and I think EVERY one should check out the Madonna Inn.

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